Updated 3:46 p.m. | Despite immense pressure from GOP leaders, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, vulnerable New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, voted “no” for the second time on a Republican tax overhaul.
Just one of the 13 Republicans who voted against the House tax overhaul bill in November switched their vote to “yes” as the House passed the conference committee report Tuesday, 227-203, sending it to the Senate for final approval.
California GOP Rep. Tom McClintock was the only member positively swayed by changes between the House bill and the conference report.
“I always believed it would be good for the economy,” he said Monday about his plans to support the final measure. “Now I’m able to look all of my constituents in the eye and say it’s going to be good for your families too.”
Part of the reason, McClintock said, is the change on the state and local tax deduction, or SALT. While the House version had limited the deduction to property taxes, the conference report retained taxpayers’ ability to deduct income or sales taxes. The total deduction is now capped at $10,000.
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“A lot of it is the overall rate reductions that they built in,” he added. “Even families losing tens of thousands of dollars in deductions still end up paying lower tax because of the rate reductions.”
California has one of the highest income tax burdens of all states, and House GOP leaders acknowledged the SALT fix, which was pushed by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was mainly to appease Republicans from that state.
Ultimately, the two other California Republicans who had voted against the House bill — Reps. Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher — were unmoved. Both noted improvements in the final bill but said they weren’t enough to help the majority of their constituents. Issa and Rohrabacher are on Roll Call’s list of the top 10 most vulnerable incumbents, with Issa in the top spot.
Members from New York — Frelinghuysen, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo and Christopher H. Smith — who had opposed the House version primarily over SALT also felt the changes didn’t go far enough and voted “no” on the conference report. The same went for Reps. Dan Donovan, John Faso, Peter King, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin of New Jersey.
North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, who voted against the House bill because of concerns about the deficit, also held firm in his opposition.
As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen received some backlash for his previous “no” vote, with some members questioning whether he should continue to lead the powerful committee. The 12-term congressman is also being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
After the vote, Frelinghuysen deflected questions about the vulnerability of his chairmanship.
“I’m focusing on doing all of our appropriations bills, that’s what I’m focused on, getting the work done,” he said. “We did our bills three months ago so hopefully what’s happened today will allow us to proceed to do the nation’s work.”
Frelinghuysen ignored questions about whether he cleared his vote with leadership.
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Two members did not vote on the bill. Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan is still recovering from heart surgery and will return when Congress reconvenes in early January, while Massachusetts Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III and his wife are expecting their second child at any moment in the Bay State.
Protestors shouting “kill the bill, don’t kill us” were removed from the House gallery. A few Democrats on the floor cheered for them.
Simone Pathé and Michael Teitelbaum contributed to this report.Correction | An earlier version of this article misquoted Rep. Tom McClintock.